SOL21: Day 27 Pause

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
Open Invitation to Write on Sharing Our Stories

 One of the most satisfying things about teaching for me is learning. I learn something new every day, and it still surprises me. On Teach this Poem by Poets.org, I learned about a poetic device: caesura, referring to a pause for a beat in the rhythm of a verse, often indicated by a line break or by punctuation. This literary device was used with effectiveness in a poem by Yesenia Montilla, a brief meditation on breath.

A brief meditation on breath

–they’re saying
this virus takes your breath away, not
like a mother’s love or like a good kiss
from your lover’s soft mouth but like the police
it can kill you fast or slow; dealer’s choice.
a pallbearer carrying your body without a casket.
they say it’s so contagious it could be quite
breathtaking. so persistent it might as well
be breathing                        down your neck—

Copyright © 2020 by Yesenia Montilla. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 21, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

A long held belief of mine is that our bodies will tell us when to pause. I’ve believed this since 1995 when a herniated disc in my spine caused severe pain and subsequent surgery. There was nothing to do but pause and heal. Whenever I moved, pain would send me back. Luckily, I’ve not had any serious trouble since then, but I have learned to listen and pause when my body tells me to. I haven’t quite conquered yet the annoyance and guilt that sets in. We always want answers, so when the answer is “wait”, we twiddle thumbs and pace and complain.

Pause to enjoy the azaleas–
Walking to the parking lot from school, I stopped to notice how two azalea bushes were intertwined.

Following The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I’ve been writing morning pages for a few months. They are scribbled scratches before my coffee, before my mind wakes up. I really wasn’t sure this exercise was working for me. I’ve been resistant and irritated about it. Like when my body hurts, morning pages were a kind of pain in my side. I did them out of obligation, a commitment to a weekly group. But yesterday morning, a poem came out. And today, I wrote about a picture book idea.

So, wait a minute…you’re telling me that writing morning pages every day since January 3rd is finally opening up your creativity? Could it really take that long? Perhaps it won’t for you, but it has for me. And I’m still unsure if I’ll keep up the practice after our last meeting this week. Yet, there is something to be said for taking a pause, taking your pulse before the day begins.

Like caesura Pause. Begin. Be.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
Poetry Friday is with Susan at Soul Blossom Living

With my student Chloe, I read the poem Small Kindnesses by Danusha Laméris. I learned about Danusha from a podcast from Poetry Magazine featuring her in conversation with Naomi Shihab Nye (who is also well-known for a poem about Kindness.) Ramona recommended it last week.

Chloe and I talked about all the small kindnesses in the poem. About this line, “…for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass,” she said, “You know, she’s right. Red trucks are the friendliest!”

In every school, the custodian is the person you want to know. The poem about small kindnesses reminded me of a custodian at one of my schools. She is always dressed in bright colors with a wonderful head wrap and mask to match. She calls everyone “Love.” When I told this to Chloe, she gave me a word list around the topic of sun from her poetry writing journal Write the Poem. The list included effulgence which we both needed to Google. (Effulgence is brightness taken to the extreme.) My poem uses lines from Danusha, the word from Chloe, and the kindness that I almost forgot to notice had I not needed something to write about.

I’ve been thinking about the way when I walk
the school hallways, it’s always the custodian
who speaks. Excuse me, I say as I weave around
her heavy trash bin
that squeaks, rumbles and roars.

She calls after me, Have a nice day, Love!
Radiant as the sun itself, her yellow t-shirt
and rainbow leggings light my path.
Even her scent is effulgent, shouting warmth
of kindness, a hug for my hurried day.

Mostly, we want to greet each other
with glowing smiles. To slip a scented flower
beneath the doorway,
like a spritz of perfume, leave kindness
on someone else’s path.

Margaret Simon, after Danusha Laméris
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

What small kindnesses are you noticing?

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I have been playing with collage in my notebook. One day Chloe saw one of my pages and said, “I want to try that.” So I loaded her up with some magazines to take home. She came back the next day not only with a beautiful collage but a poem inspired by it. I interviewed her about the process and recorded it. The Soundcloud recording below is our conversation.

I love what Chloe said about how an image that she put in her collage became surprising images in her poem. The process of cutting is meditative. It can work both ways, too. Creating a collage after a poem can help you process and make connections in a visual way.

I’ve been working through the book The Artist’s Way. Julia Cameron encourages self-discovery and self-nurturing through creativity. She offers affirmations to write and rewrite and say to yourself, questions that move you to letting go and letting spiritual blessings of creativity in. In the margin of a page, I wrote “How is my creativity a blessing to others?” I think I found my answer.


The silhouette of spinning
monkeys swinging on 
peacock feathers,

Turtles following dogs on
beaches waving at the waves

As the pig and bird guard their 
treasure found at sea,

and the mother and
daughter watch the
world they live on
on the beach shore.

Chloe, 5th grade
Magazine collage by Chloe
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
You may use this image on your blog if you share a poem from this prompt.

The clocks have been set forward, the days are getting longer, and there is a rumor that spring is here. I forget how turbulent March can be. It’s like the weather can’t decide. There is a war between hot and cold, humid and dry, that causes wind and storms and then bright sunny days and flowers.

I love spring flowers. My photo app is full of them. One of my favorites is the wisteria vine. Wisteria is an invasive species in South Louisiana. My husband hates the insidious vines that rot wooden railings. I’ve lost the battle over trying to keep it in our yard. But this week they were blooming beautifully in our neighborhood. On my walk, I smelled their fragrance before seeing the vine.

wisteria vine, photo by Margaret Simon

Lavender leaves weep
wander in March windy ways
fragrant springtime tears

Margaret Simon, March haiku

Join me today and write a small poem in the comments or on your blog (leave a link in the comments). Be sure to support others with encouraging comments.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
“Writing for me is no different than playing basketball, it’s my body moving among and pushing up against and being moved by other bodies of language and the energy of language,” says Natalie Diaz in an interview with Brandon Stosuy in the Creative Independent, in which she talks about the physicality of writing and how her experience as a professional athlete and her Mojave culture affect how she writes. “I don’t only feel with my body, I think with it. Even text is a physical space for me.” This week, write a short essay describing what your writing process feels like. How does articulating the way you write help focus your process?
From Poets & Writers, The Time is Now

My writing follows a white-crested bird

diving into the bayou

then flying off into a tree and shaking its feathers out–


I write with tabs across my computer screen,

a cup of coffee growing cold,

and fingers jumping on a trampoline

of similes, images that come to my mind

and fly away as fast as the bayou bird.

Maybe I should open a tab and find out its name;

specificity is good to use in writing,

but then I’d have to stop, take a sip of water,

wash down the inspiration and start again.

Writing is no different from bird watching,

trying to name the thing that captures you

and takes you into a new space

of discovery. I didn’t even know I knew how to say that.

Margaret Simon, draft
Image by JudaM from Pixabay
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Last week, Leigh Anne Eck sent an invitation to respond to a prompt, a party invitation, in which every participant leaves a quick-write bio patterned after Devon Gundry from Soul Pancake. Read more about the party invitation here.

Depending on when you met me, I would have been walking hand in hand with a black girl, my friend, because my parents never said that wasn’t ok, or I was playing in the woods becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder or jumping on the trampoline or into the swimming pool; you may have met a teenage educator wanting to change the world one kid at a time, or a girl writing daily in a diary, a young mother who learned to smock and sew in that order, a working mother driving in early dawn away from her family to teach 3rd graders. Depending on when you met me, you may have met a graduate student, a National Boards candidate, but if you met me today, you’d see MaMère in my eyes, falling in love all over again with babies and art.

As an Artist by Margaret

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I was first introduced to Poetic Justice by Sarah Donovan at her site Ethical ELA in July, 2020.

Poetic Justice offers restorative writing and creative arts programs to women who are incarcerated. Since 2014, they have been offering classes in jails and detention facilities that engage in self-reflective, therapeutic writing: “By using poetry, women who have never written in their lives find the confidence to write from their hearts.” (They were featured on CNN Heroes.)

Sarah Donovan, Ethical ELA

Because of the pandemic, Poetic Justice could no longer go into prisons and teach the writing workshops, but that didn’t stop them. Now they have more than 150 inmates and volunteers writing poetry and letters to each other. I volunteered to be a writing partner and am now in my third round of writing.

I believe in the power of poetry to heal. My writing partner, Kwain, has solidified that belief for me in the 8 months that we have been writing to each other. As with any deeply personal project, it has taken a while for her to trust me with her writing. I feel it is a privilege to receive it. This month we exchanged I am From poems.

I am From

I am from the homemade Jalapeño skillet cornbread
with pig intestines known as chitlins.
I am from the Dominoes playing as
the adults yell out foul words
as the odor of cigarettes corrupt the air of the room.
I am from Earth, Wind, and Fire, R Kelly and soul music.
I am from the state flower BlueBonnet,
Texas Longhorn. 
I am from the small church known as Immanuel Baptist Church
where I got saved when I was 9 years old. 
I am from a fatherless home.
I am from being Independent is a must
because all I had was my mom.
I am from “Everything is bigger”.
I am from Amarillo, Texas.

Kwain Monroe

The writing I receive from Kwain comes as scans of notebook pages. I write to her through a paid service (30 cents per letter).

If you are interested in this project, consider a donation. $25 can sponsor one inmate’s participation and supplies. Poetic Justice website.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
Joining Sharing our Stories Magic

On Sharing our Stories Magic, Ruth posts a weekly writing prompt. This week the prompt came as a challenge to write about a sunset without using color or seasonal language yet evoking a sense of both through the story. My mind naturally goes to poetry, so I wrote a poem. In June of 2019, my parents moved to a retirement home, and my siblings and I cleared out their home of 30 years. Even though, thankfully, Mom and Dad are both living healthy lives, the move was like a death. Their home on the lake had become a peaceful vacation spot for me and my family. I mourned this loss in this sunset poem.

The Last Time

You won’t know when the last day comes,
but it will come with a sunset
while you sit in the porch swing
dangling your feet like you did as a child
perhaps talking with your brother.

Hummingbirds will hum at the feeder,
a blown glass ornament your mother left behind
for you to fill
with sweet water just to see their wings
flutter hungrily, hearts beating faster than
the speed of sound.

The orb that makes each day new
ends this day
in silent symphony
hovering over the lake
bathing it in jewels
you can hold in your hand
lay down in the velvet-lined jewelry box
she left in her closet
for you to find.

Margaret Simon, draft
Poetry Friday is with Linda at Teacher Dance
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I challenged myself to try Spark, a creative exchange between artists and poets. Artist Betty Nichols sent me an image of her art.

Painting by Betty Nichols

A process I’ve been playing with lately is paper collage. To get my head around this abstract painting, I decided to recreate it in collage. The paper I selected informed words I collected to write from. Here is my response collage.

Notebook collage in response to art by Betty Nichols

While searching for things to cut out, I found an article that included advice from Maria Shriver on how to make a difference. The first bullet point, “Sit with yourself” became the title. I cut out radicchio to get the red color. Doing research I found that radicchio is the “crunch VIP of salads.” The black flame came from a bee print paper. I let the list and collage sit for a few days. The process worked for me.

Sit with Yourself

The chicory radicchio is said
to be the ultimate crunch in your daily salad,
rich in vitamin K.

This red dagger isn’t dangerous.

The flame that is the yellow body of a bee
harmlessly flying from tree to tree
pollinates, perpetuating life.

This red dagger isn’t dangerous.

When you are faced with the sharp points
of a knife you use every day,
look closely. The stain of death
may be the blood of birth,
the path of its blade leading to light.

This red dagger isn’t dangerous.

A snow-filled valley will green in spring.

Sit with yourself.
Give it time.

Margaret Simon, all rights reserved.

Posted at Spark here.

I sent Betty a blues poem, and she responded with tissue paper art. See our collaboration here.

At first I was completely intimidated by the idea of writing a poem to someone else’s art. By making it my own through my own art, I was able to find a way in to the original painting. The idea of sitting with yourself to make space for creativity comes up for me a lot these days. Creativity requires space as well as time for incubation. I hope you can find time and space to incubate and create. The process is its own reward.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
Notebook Page 3/16/21

Playing with lots of creative ideas on this notebook page. I started with a falling apart copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I wanted to try writing a blackout (erasure) poem that had nothing to do with the actual content on the page.

The second thing I made was the notecard design. This is a method of meditation I learned last year at an art museum workshop (the fall of 2019 when we could go to these things.) It’s a simple concept. Choose 3 colors that express your mood. Set the timer for 3 minutes and follow where the lines take you. I use a meditation timer on my phone with some ambient sound.

I had been struggling for days to learn how to make an origami butterfly. I finally got one and added it to the page.

The final touches were some magazine cut-outs I had set aside for when I may need them. There is a creative satisfaction that happens when all the elements come together in a pleasing way.

Text of the black-out poem:

back to
Sunday morning
skating on
losing one face
in the window
just before lunch.

Margaret Simon, from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix